I’ve got to admit that COVID-19 scares me, because if I catch it my chance of surviving it is around 20% for one simple reason.
Obesity. Turns out it really is one of the factors that makes it a lot worse. Like a lot of other people I’m carrying extra weight – so much in fact it’s now dangerous.
That’s why I’m pleased the gyms and swimming pools are starting to open from tomorrow.
Yeah alright, you’ve got to book in advance, and yeah it’s going to be a very different experience (e.g. capacity management in all spaces), but you know what – this is the moment to use these facilities to put yourself in good shape to fight COVID-19 if you catch it.
Not just COVID either. Turns out being fit and healthy helps you fight other illnesses and diseases too. COVID was a brush too close for my liking.
Therefore I was genuinely pleased to join the Deputy Mayor Julian Grubb and representatives from Rubicon Leisure today to tour their work at the Abbey Stadium Sports Centre ahead of tomorrow’s reopening.
They’re ready. Boy are they ready. They’ve put a lot of work in to keep everyone safe. The whole site has undergone a full viral deep clean and internal decoration. When I say clean I mean CLEAN. The place is sparkling!
But you’ve got to work with them too – it’s on all of us to each take responsibility and be responsible.
The same applies to the obesity problem. There’s people out there working hard to help us, but we’ve got to help ourselves. Me included. Me especially.
I am conscious and aware of my role to set a good example, and I fully intend to do so. Please feel free to join me on this journey – I’d love to hear your stories and I’d love to hear how we can all work together to make Redditch healthier because today ‘healthier’ also means ‘safer’.
For the latest updates, what to expect and how to book check the link below
Outdoor pools can reopen to the public from 11 July followed by indoor gyms, pools and leisure centres on 25 July.
The Government has outlined the measures that will allow outdoor pools to reopen from 11 July and indoor gyms, swimming pools and sports facilities to reopen from 25 July, ensuring millions of people can get back into more sport and fitness activities.
The guidance, published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has been compiled with input from the trade body ukactive, the Sport and Recreation Alliance, Sport England and other sports bodies, and in consultation with Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive.
It includes advice for providers of pool, gym and leisure facilities on cleaning, social distancing, and protection for staff to help venues get back up and running safely.
It also supports the re-opening of sports halls which are vital to the return of play for many sports, including badminton and volleyball. Guidance produced by National Governing Bodies will complement the government guidance and help ensure indoor sports can be played safely from July 25.
Venues must ensure they can enable customers, staff and volunteers to maintain social distancing before, during and after participation.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:
The reopening of gyms is the news millions across the country have been waiting for with many people desperate to jump on a spinning bike or dive into a pool.
Our comprehensive guidance will ensure gyms, pools and leisure centres have the support they need to reopen safely for their customers and staff.
Helping people return to gyms safely will also help the nation get match-fit to defeat this virus.
Measures set out in the guidance include:
Limiting the number of people using the facility at any one time, for example by using a timed booking system;
Reducing class sizes and allowing sufficient time between each class to avoid groups waiting outside during changeover;
Ensuring an appropriate number of people are in a swimming pool at any one time;
Spacing out equipment or taking some out of service to maintain social distancing;
Enhanced cleaning and providing hand sanitizer throughout venues;
Considering how the way people walk through their venue could be adjusted to reduce contact, with queue management or one-way systems;
Ensuring adequate ventilation;
Encouraging the use of outdoor spaces for individual, team or group activities, making sure to comply with the latest restrictions on public gatherings;
Exercise or dance studios should have temporary floor markings where possible to help people stay distanced during classes;
Customers and staff should be encouraged to shower and change at home wherever possible, although changing rooms will be available.
Today’s announcement follows a recent visit by government, Sport England and public health officials, led by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, to a series of ukactive member sites. This allowed officials to see first-hand how the sector is preparing to reopen safely.
Leisure centres and indoor gyms, along with swimming pools and other indoor sports facilities, have been closed since Saturday 21 March as part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Rules on exercise were initially relaxed from 14 May, to allow people greater access to local, outdoor physical activity. This allowed the public to go outside for unlimited exercise, alone or with their household, or one other person while adhering to social distancing rules. It also permitted outdoor sports facilities such as golf courses and tennis courts to reopen, with strict safety measures in place.
On 1 June the Government published guidance which allowed people to exercise outside with up to five others from different households, provided that strict social distancing guidelines were followed. This meant that people who play team sports could meet to train together and take part in conditioning or fitness sessions, although anything involving physical contact was not allowed. It allowed parents to accompany their children to coaching sessions carried out on a one to one basis or in small groups.
Outdoor gyms were permitted to reopen from 4 July while ensuring social distancing.
This latest guidance is part of the Government’s carefully-designed package to ease the burdens of lockdown in a way that is expected to keep the R rate, the average number of secondary infections produced by 1 infected person, down. The phased approach is outlined in the Prime Minister’s roadmap for easing lockdown. As the Prime Minister has always said, the Government keeps these measures under review, and will not hesitate to apply the handbrakes if required.
Performing arts can now take place outdoors from 11 July with a socially distanced audience present, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced today.
This means that outdoor theatres, opera, dance and music can resume from Saturday so long as they take place outside and with a limited and socially distanced audience. This gives the green light for the likes of outdoor opera at Glyndebourne, Sussex and plays at Cornwall’s Minack Theatre, to go ahead. London’s West End will also return through the Six, The Musical Drive-In.
The five stages of the phased return to professional performing arts is as follows:
Stage One – Rehearsal and training (no audiences and adhering to social distancing guidelines)
Stage Two – Performances for broadcast and recording purposes (adhering to social distancing guidelines)
Stage Three – Performances outdoors with an audience plus pilots for indoor performances with a limited distance audience from July 11. We will now also work with the sector to get small pilots started as soon as possible and will set out further details in due course.
Stage Four – Performances allowed indoors / outdoors (but with a limited distanced audience indoors)
Stage Five – Performances allowed indoors / outdoors (with a fuller audience indoors)
The Government will also work with the sector to pilot a number of small indoor performances with a social distanced audience to help inform plans about how best to get indoor venues back up and running.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is working alongside sector bodies including UK Theatre, the Association of British Orchestras and the Musicians’ Union to identify suitable pilots. This will include working with London Symphony Orchestra at St Luke’s as well as the London Palladium and Butlins amongst others.
A change in planning rules will also mean theatres, concert halls and live music performance venues will be protected from demolition or change of use by developers, stopping those that have been made temporarily vacant during lockdown disappearing altogether and giving extra security to these businesses as they start to re-open.
Today’s announcements follows the government’s announcement of £1.57 billion of funding for the arts, culture and heritage sector earlier this week, the biggest ever one off investment in these industries.
New guidance, published by the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport today, will help performing arts organisations, venue operators and participants in the UK understand how they can work and take part in the performing arts safely, and keep their audiences safe.
The guidance follows the government’s five-stage roadmap outlining how we will get audiences back into performing arts venues. It provides advice on all aspects of performance, from casting, sound and lighting, costume and fitting, to cloakrooms, orchestra pits, hair and make-up.
Singing and the playing of brass and wind instruments will be permitted in a managed and controlled professional working environment to minimise risk.
The Secretary of State has also commissioned a scientific study on the risks associated with singing and brass instruments which will be done in partnership with Public Health England, professional musicians from the Royal Opera House and the BBC and scientists from Imperial College, London and Bristol University. This will help inform our work on getting the performing arts fully back up and running safely, by testing what can be done safely.
The guidance makes clear that the following measures should be considered to allow for safe resumption of performances:
A reduction in venue capacity and limited ticket sales to ensure social distancing can be maintained
All tickets must be purchased online and venues are encouraged to move towards e-ticketing for help with track and trace
Venues should have clearly communicated social distancing marking in place in areas where queues form and adopt a limited entry approach *. Increased deep cleaning of auditoriums
Performances should be scheduled to allow sufficient time to undertake deep cleaning before the next audience arrives
Singing and the playing of brass and wind instruments in groups or in front of an audience is limited to professionals only
Performers, conductors, musicians must observe social distancing wherever possible
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:
Our culture, heritage and arts are too precious to lose. That’s why we’re protecting venues like theatres from redevelopment if they fall on hard times.
We are also giving further clarity on restart dates in our roadmap back to performance. From July 11 we can all enjoy performances outdoors with social distancing and we are working hard to get indoor audiences back as soon as we safely can, following pilots. Our scientific research project will also help speed up this journey.
Combined with our £1.57bn rescue package, this is a comprehensive plan to help our brilliant arts organisations weather the covid storm and bounce back stronger.
Housing and Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick said:
The UK has a leading cultural industry that is the envy of the world. Our theatres, concert halls and live music performance venues are one of the reasons that the country has this reputation and they are essential to our national culture. That’s why we are protecting them for the enjoyment of future generations.
Alongside the £1.57 billion investment to protect Britain’s cultural, arts and heritage institutions, I am ensuring the buildings that represent these institutions can’t be destroyed and are properly protected in the planning system.
All venues will be instructed to produce risk assessments and review their cleaning regimes, however deep cleaning and social distancing systems, including floor markings are all required to be completed in a way that does not damage the historic fabric of any listed buildings.
The guidance is part of the government’s clear, phased approach to recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, as outlined in the Prime Minister’s roadmap.
I am aware this is a very sensitive issue, but I do have to correct campaigners who have incorrectly named Morton Stanley Park in Redditch on a ‘hit list’ for toppling of statues, which was then published by the Metro and The Sun newspapers and others. Efforts are being made to correct these sources.
I want to make it very clear that the Morton Stanley Park in Redditch is not named after Henry Morton Stanley. It’s named after a local fish hook and needle entrepreneur called William Morton Stanley who had nothing to do with the abhorrent slave trade. He purchased land, which he then generously bequeathed to the people of Redditch in 1924 to be used as a park.
Furthermore, as a former new town that’s just over 55 years old, there are no statues of anyone at any of the parks in Redditch anyway, though the idea of a memorial to William Morton Stanley has been brought up in the past.
As the council’s Portfolio Holder covering culture, parks and open spaces I am keen to stress that Redditch has a rich historic and cultural background with strong working class roots. We are a town that thrives on equality of opportunity and benefits from cultural and ethnic diversity. I don’t think we have ever thought it would be appropriate to glorify figures in history who are marred in human controversy, and if we have ever done so I can commit to bringing these forward for review as soon as they are brought to my attention.
On a personal note, I am fully sympathetic to the debate around our nation’s cultural history. As someone who was raised in a mixed race household it was not until we encountered prejudice that I even noticed as a child my brother was supposedly different to me. In my heart he has never been anything other than my big brother, and I can only hope that our society as a whole can heal and come together with true and long-overdue equality in our hearts and real opportunity for all as the outcomes of our mutual love.
It’s Sunday 10th May 2020, coming up to midday. Everyone is aware that the Prime Minister is going to say something today when he addresses the nation on changes to the lock down restrictions that were put in place on Monday 23 March 2020.
Today is the first day of tightening restrictions – we’re not yet being ordered to stay at home. Being strongly advised to work from home and avoid social contact is where we are – it’s a far cry from the full lockdown approach we are seeing in other countries with loudhailer announcements and police patrolling the streets to keep people indoors. They are weeks ahead of us in terms of the infection curve, so this could just be a sign of things to come…
I have today sent the following email in response to the planning application that Redditch Borough Council is submitting so the council can build 19 affordable dwellings to house people in need across Redditch. These will provide 48 bedrooms to accommodate 86 people. Three of the units will be Dormer-style bungalows, which will allow elderly and disabled citizens to downsize and in doing so they will free up 3/4 bedroom houses, which is by far and away the most demanded type of house the Council needs to provide.
I’m attending a Local Government Association training event for Councillors who have the ‘Culture’ brief on their councils. One of the areas we are covering is how culture can play a driving role in the regeneration of towns, so I wanted to reflect on how Redditch is placing culture at the heart of our own plans for the town centre and our partnerships.
In late 2018 I attended a meeting with Royal Enfield to essentially pitch to them the town of Redditch as a worthwhile place to consider for partnership working in the cultural space. The idea was brought to me by an officer in the council who was inspired by the ‘Unlock Redditch’ vision and had managed to secure the face-to-face opportunity.
At the meeting I set about to outline why Redditch and Royal Enfield could work together, tapping into the town’s rich heritage and history of manufacturing the iconic cycles until the 1960s when the brand left the town. I talked about the pride and passion of the people who have made Redditch their home, and about the place Redditch has in the Midlands as a great leisure destination with top transport links.
We even pulled together a little video where we took an existing Royal Enfield advert and overlaid it with a track called ‘Want You Back’. The video isn’t official, and hasn’t been sanctioned. It was just a bit of teaser to convey the opportunity that lay before us. Here it is in the spirit of openness (and because I’m quite proud of it – I produced it myself – i.e. I did the musical overlay not the visuals):
The pitch worked. A number of meetings followed, and the big area of discussion was around how could we (as partners) deliver something that would have maximum impact for the town of Redditch both in terms of something that Royal Enfield could be proud to put their iconic name to, and something that would resonate with the people.
We pulled in Prof. Petro Nicolaides who is assisting WM Mayor Andy Street on the return of the Birmingham Superprix. Petro is a friend, and so he kindly agreed to help Redditch in his limited free time. I cannot emphasise enough the energy and the connections Petro brought to the new Royal Enfield Task Force, and how grateful I am for his help and mentorship.
Initially, we looked at the possibility of running a road race through Redditch. We had the idea that Royal Enfield bikes would race around the Redditch Cloverleaf, one of the few full cloverleaf junctions in the UK. However, it soon became apparent that closing two major A-Roads would be a financial and logistical step too far.
The end result of these initial discussions was the ‘Royal Enfield Pop-up Museum’ that ran for 6 weeks in the Kingfisher Centre, the main tourist destination in Redditch. This museum was intended to be the first outcome of the partnership, not the last. It’s the start of the journey.
Here’s what the pop-up museum looked like:
Local, regional and international media reported on the museum, with headlines like:
The legendary Royal Enfield – the oldest motorcycle brand in the world still in production – has revved its way back to its birthplace after 56 years away.
Here’s another video, this time from Royal Enfield themselves that showcases how the former factory workers were put at the heart of the opening events, which took place over two days:
Working with the Kingfisher Centre, the museum was able to take a previously empty shop unit for 6 weeks, and was immensely successful. The shop was never empty and people came from all over the region to visit – former factory workers, enthusiasts and those just curious to see what all the fuss was about.
Naturally, whilst they were there they also enjoyed a drink and something to eat, and browsed the shops, delivering an economic boost to the area.
What’s more, the Royal Enfield Owners’ Club have been inspired by the event and feel confident to start talking about opening a permanent museum in the town. This would be a transformation – actually doubling the number of museums in Redditch (currently, we have just one).
As the Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Leisure & Culture I am making it my mission to keep bringing exciting things like this to Redditch, and also to build on the Royal Enfield partnership, which I hope will be something that endures, grows and flourishes long after I’ve left office.